Physics and math certified Philadelphia public high school teacher. Obsessive consumer of coffee. Teaches physics through engineering, making and doing.
I’m Klint and I teach physics in the Philadelphia School District. For the past four years, I’ve been doing it at The Academy at Palumbo, a really awesome magnet high school in South Philadelphia. In my mind, physics is the coolest and most important topic anyone could ever want to study and I’m lucky to be able to share it with kids. The analytical thinking and intuition developed through the study of physics gives students a clear lens through which to view the world and a powerful problem solving toolkit they can use to approach almost any situation they encounter in academics, industry or life.
The best way to learn physics is by doing physics. The best way to implement physics is by engineering solutions to real problems. These are immutable truths that guide my teaching philosophy and classroom environment. Students have to learn very quickly that physics class is not an isolated system and their skills in data analysis, statistics, design and communication play a huge part in their understanding.
To facilitate this cross-curricular experience, I’ve been building a MakerSpace at Palumbo. Constructed through Donors Choose projects, materials donations and student involvement, it’s fast becoming a space where students can explore ways to take their understanding of mechanics and circuits out of their notebooks and into reality. Students design, make and do with an array of tools, materials, electronics and even a 3D Printer. This open-ended approach ties the curriculum to artifacts of personal value that are student created, raising the excitement and investment for everyone involved.
When I'm not teaching, I spend my time tearing apart, fixing, tinkering, making, salvaging, archiving and learning. I'm passionate about good coffee, new places, motorcycle rides, loud music, vintage electronics and classic comedy.
Learning Physics by Observing Physics
What's more compelling, observing a phenomenon and developing a relationship from data you collected, or reading an equation out of a book? Taking the accounts of others as faith is depriving students of the opportunity to conduct their own investigations, come to their own conclusions and make their own predictions. Physics is testable, observable and verifiable, so let's allow students to learn science by doing science. That way, students can relive the discoveries of those who came before and truly stand on the shoulders of giants.
Making and Doing
Developing Functional Understanding Through Practical Application
The traditional way to assess understanding is through the administration of exams. The number of future careers this prepares a student for is exactly... zero. Engineers, scientists and other professionals use physics by applying the principles and analytical methods to solving real world problems. They design solutions, make things and model complex situations in terms of things they understand. Our students should be assessed the same way professionals are and allowed to direct their own learning based upon their interests and the problems they're trying to solve. Making to learn is an engaging and open ended way to afford them this opportunity.
Learning With My Students, Not Lecturing At Them
One of the most important aspects of my classroom culture is the relationships I develop with my students. I'm not the ultimate authority in the room. They're taught to trust their observations, data and experiences. If we can't come to a consensus understanding about a topic, we need to experiment further. When my students are making, they're becoming experts on their own and need to be empowered as such. I have a policy of "chronic oversharing" that lets my students know that I'm a human being, just like them. My students and I respect each other and they know I'm invested in their success and safety. Because I design their experiences around discovery and tinkering, they're going to be wrong sometimes. The culture of my classroom embraces this as a necessary part of learning and erodes the fears and insecurity that society attaches to imperfection. We're all involved in the process together and we all succeed together.
“Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.”
Yale University: Yale National Initiative (2016)
A curriculum unit that uses the number line and transformations to explain 1D and 2D vector arithmetic. Goes through the construction of coordinate systems, composition of transformations and applications to kinematics.
University of Pennsylvania: Teachers Institute of Philadelphia (2016)
A curriculum unit that approaches the evaluation of early cosmologies and the development of Kepler’s Laws from the perspective of Earth-based observational astronomy. Focuses on geometric argumentation and simulated observations as tools to develop our current picture of the solar system.
Yale University: Yale National Initiative (2015)
A curriculum unit focusing on developing authentic number sense and problem solving skills in students through estimation and solving Fermi Problems.
University of Pennsylvania: Teachers Institute of Philadelphia (2015)
A curriculum unit focusing on heat transfers with applications in engineering and sustainable design. Includes a culminating project where students design, build and evaluate insulating coffee mugs constructed around mason jars.
University of Pennsylvania: Teachers Institute of Philadelphia (2014)
A curriculum unit focusing on learning about DC circuits and electronics through open ended inquiry experiences. Includes frameworks for including MakerEd experiences, like 3D Printing and Arduino.
A few of the things I'm currently up to:
Through a partnership with Drexel University, I led the redesign of the School District of Philadelphia's Scope and Sequence for Physics. This is a part of a multiyear project and currently includes pacing for traditional and block scheduling, standards (NGSS & Common Core) aligned resources, internally generated screencasts and labs, banks of assessment questions and supporting professional development sessions.
With the University of Pennsylvania's Teachers Institute of Philadelphia and Yale University's National Teachers Institute, I've been able to study areas of specific interest to my students and me while also publishing curriculum units that are ready to integrate into any physics class. My work through these two projects includes studies of coordinate systems, thermodynamics, Kepler's Laws and more.
Funding for even basic classroom needs is nonexistent in the Philadelphia School District. While I'm constantly looking for grants and opportunities to help get my students the things they need, sometimes that just isn't enough. A lot of what I bring to my students is crowdfunded by people who believe in what we're doing and what a school should offer. You can see and contribute to any of my current (or future) crowdfunding projects here.
With a team of students, I've repurposed a large storage room into a constantly evolving engineering lab and MakerSpace. There are wood and metal working tools, electronics components, a soldering station, a 3D printer and piles of materials. The space is a place where classes can go to combine engineering, science and design into innovative projects and artifacts of learning that students are personally invested in. We also host open making sessions and after school seminars in subjects like CAD, electronics and Arduino that are open to any and all interested students.
Here's a list of things I've "done," because some people seem to care about that sort of thing.
BS Physics, Drexel University 2005
MS Instruction, Drexel University, 2013
PA Instructional II: Physics 9-12
PA Instructional II: Mathematics 9-12
Philadelphia Eagles All-Pro Teacher, 2015
Penn For Youth Debate Coach of the Year, 2015
Cole Hamels Foundation Grant Winner, 2015
Lindback Award for Distinguised Teaching, 2013-2014
Samsung Solve for Tomorrow, National Winner 2014
AP Summer Institute: AP Calculus AB/BC
AP Summer Institute: AP Physics 1/2
AP Summer Institute: AP Physics B/C
Education and Activism
FDR once said that public education was the real safeguard of democracy. I'm passionate about defending the quality and presence of public education. Engaging students to think scientifically and interact with physics is the perfect way to inspire a new generation to practice science as a profession and defend logic, reason and discovery within our society.
From finding funding for our MakerSpace to discussing the impact this type of learning has on my students, there's been a large amount of interest in fusing physics education with the Maker movement.
Samsung Solve for Tomorrow
I was one of two teachers who led a group of students to a $140,000 technology prize for The Academy at Palumbo as National Winners in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest. Our students developed an algorithm to rank walking routes based upon criteria that included relative safety using crime data from the Philadelphia Police Department.